By Kara Spada, Ohio State University UNA Campus Chapter Leader and UNA-USA Youth Engagement Intern
On Wednesday, June 17th Raya, Sesame Street’s newest muppet, paid a visit to Capitol Hill alongside Congressman Ted Poe, Global Citizen, Global Poverty and The United Nations Foundation. Raya came to speak about the importance of sanitation and better access to drinking water around the world. According to Global Citizen, 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to toilets, forcing them to practice open-defecation, or in other words- pooping in public. For those who do have access, cleanliness and privacy is often an issue. Girls suffer from embarrassment about menstruation and risk being attacked or raped on their way to using a bathroom.
In 2014, BBC wrote about the dangers women in rural India face, highlighting the story of two girls who were ambushed, raped, and hanged from a tree on their way to using the outdoor toilets. In Kurmaali, a village 50 miles from India’s capital, the fields are used as bathrooms for 300 of about 330 families living in the area. These fields are the very same ones used to grow crops for the village. Human waste is full of dangerous bacteria that can cause the spread of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, polio, cryptosporidiosis, and ascariasis. When it is not disposed of properly, it can make its way back into the body and cause people to become very sick.
Today, 783 million people do not have access to clean, safe water. Because the closest water available to many people is often miles away, the task of acquiring clean water keeps children out of school and parents from employment. Many have to risk their safety daily to retrieve water that is often not even safe to drink! Drinking unsanitary water causes 1 out of 5 deaths among children under 5.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program is focused on developing tools that can lead to sustainable improvements in the developing world. Sesame Street has joined the initiative and is promoting health messages that will reach children and families across Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria.
What can you do?
- Support the initiative by visiting Global Citizen and Sesame Street websites to learn more about the importance of clean water and sanitation.
- Spread the word about global water and sanitation issues with our bathroom factoids. Print out these fact pages and post them in your campus and dorm bathrooms. By drawing attention to the issues, and you can both recruit students to join your chapter and help build support for solutions to WASH challenges.
- Educate your campus on the necessity of clean water across the world. Plan an event for World Water Day on March 22nd.
- On November 19th, World Toilet Day will be celebrated all over the world! As a UNA Campus Chapter, host an event to raise awareness and take action on WASH challenges. Visit this website for more ideas!